HONG KONG (AP) — After being tricked into selling her Singapore home and traveling to China to invest the proceeds, Mary Seow eventually found herself homeless in Hong Kong, having lost touch with her family.
Nearly five years after she was reported missing, and after her story was told this month in an Associated Press article about people who sleep at 24-hour McDonald's outlets in Hong Kong, she has been reunited with her son and was on her way back to Singapore on Saturday.
Seow, 60, said she did not expect to be heading back to Singapore so soon after the story broke on Nov. 12.
"Until now, I'm still like dreaming," she said at Hong Kong's airport as she prepared to board a flight to Singapore with her 28-year-old son, Edward Goh.
Seow's family members had reported her missing, but her whereabouts were a mystery until she was quoted in the AP story about people known as "McRefugees."
Until then, Seow had been just one of an untold number of homeless and working poor spending their nights at the fast-food chain's 120 restaurants that are open round the clock in Hong Kong.
Her tale caught the attention of family members, Singapore's government and concerned citizens. They worked swiftly to reunite the widow with her son and only child, whom she had raised on her own after her husband died of a heart attack two decades ago.
Seow had a surprise reunion on Friday with her son, who had flown to Hong Kong to find her and bring her back home.
She said her ordeal began when she was swindled by people from China whom she met at a church in Singapore. They had persuaded her to sell her house and go with them to mainland China to invest the money in their transport business, but when she arrived she realized it was all a scam.
She decided to stay in China and try to earn back some of her lost money, including by working as a street sweeper. She eventually ended up in Hong Kong, where she has spent the past three months living on the streets and finding some work doing what is known as "parallel trading," carrying diapers, baby formula, chocolate and other branded goods across the border to resellers in mainland China.
Seow said she hadn't wanted to return to Singapore because she was mortified that she had lost the family home and didn't want to face her son.
That's why she said she had "mixed feelings" even after reuniting with her son.
"I feel happy and I feel a bit of guilty conscience," she said.
Goh said he had "very strong and mixed" emotions, but added that there would be "no drama" and that they would "definitely not talk about the past."
"I just want to bring her home," he said.
Associated Press writer Annabelle Liang in Singapore contributed to this report.
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